Tuesday 13 August 2019

Why Does Iran Wish to Destroy Israel?

Part of the paradigm of accepted international diplomacy as it is presented today, is that Iran wishes to destroy the State of Israel and her people.  This is reinforced by the Iranian regime threatening to do so at every opportunity.  It has become a given fact, and everybody knows and accepts this situation.  It seems strange that there is no significant attempt to question the right of a nation to threaten to destroy another sovereign nation.  But more than this, there appears to be no attempt to understand what drives Iran to wish to destroy Israel.  The desire to conquer another nation, or the land belonging to another nation, is relatively common and can be explained in a number of understandable ways.  The wish to destroy a nation is entirely different, and I cannot recall another case in history where a country has been singled out for destruction in the way that Israel has been in recent times.  The fact that the world seems to allow this, and the fact that there would appear to be no logical reason for it, troubles me a great deal.

It is said that, in order to present the most effective defence against enemies, it is important to understand your enemies, their thoughts and what drives and motivates them.  With that in mind, I have been wondering why it is that Iran wishes to destroy Israel.  Given how common it is to hear Iran's threats of destruction, I expected to find much written and said about this in the literature and the press.  It turns out that it is exactly the opposite, and that there is very little written on the subject.  And I could find no convincing argument that explains why the Iranian regime has the obsession to destroy Israel  So, I have tried to formulate my own views and theories that I am sharing here now.

Many believe that Iran's hatred for Israel forms part of the Arab-Israeli conflict that has typified relations between Israel and the Arab world since the State of Israel was declared in 1948.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In spite of Iran being a Muslim country in common with the rest of the Arab world, it is certainly not an Arab country.  As opposed to the Arab world that immediately launched a war when Israel declared independence, Iran recognised the State of Israel immediately in 1948, and was the second Muslim country after Turkey to do so.  Iran and Israel maintained close diplomatic ties until the revolution in Iran and the fall of the Shah in 1979.

Diplomatic relations were immediately broken off by the Islamist regime of Ayatollah Khomeini after the revolution, and Israel was labelled as the "Little Satan" following in the footsteps of the "Great Satan" which was the USA.  This seems to be the point at which the hatred for Israel really began.  Ironically, and in spite of the hateful rhetoric that emanated from the regime at that time, behind the scenes there was a great deal of close cooperation between Iran and Israel.  Much of this was driven by the 8 year-long war between Iran and Iraq.  Iraq was a common enemy of both Israel and Iran, and this created unlikely ties and reasons to cooperate.  Israel sold Iran vast quantities of arms and ammunition, in return for which Israel received Iranian oil.  It is believed that the Iranian air force continued to operate, after it was initially attacked by Iraq, only because of the assistance received from Israel.  Iran was also delighted when Israel audaciously succeeded in destroying Iraq's nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981 after the Iranians failed in their attempt to do the same.  The weekly insults and denunciations of Israel at Friday prayers by the Iranian leadership served conveniently to conceal the fact that there were no fewer than 100 carefully hidden Israeli advisers and technicians in Iran throughout the period of the war.

Since that time, Iran's leaders have continued to criticise, insult and threaten Israel at every opportunity.  And nobody has questioned for a moment why this is the case, and what justifies this vilification and extreme sentiment.  It has become a situation that simply forms part of the diplomatic landscape.  Can it be explained by Iran's hatred towards the USA, and the fact that the Israel is seen to be very close to the US?  It is difficult for me to accept that this explains all the public threats and the acts of terror that have been undertaken (and continue to be undertaken) against Israel.  Israel is not the USA's only close ally.  Why have other allies not been threatened for destruction in the halls of the United Nations in the way that Israel has been forced to endure?  And, while sentiment towards the US has wavered with different Iranian regimes (while always maintaining its negative bias), the hatred towards Israel seems unwavering no matter which Iranian president has been in power.  The threats against Israel have been the one pillar of consistency in Iranian foreign policy.  So I find it difficult to believe that this is purely driven by Israel's relationship and friendship with the USA.

The only explanation that I can offer to this extreme situation is the resurfacing of plain, old-fashioned anti-Semitism.  I use the term "resurfacing" because the Iranians/Persians do not have a long or consistent history of anti-Semitism.  The story of Purim that took place in Persia is a good representation of the relations that Jews and Iranians have enjoyed over the centuries.  While the king of Persia married a Jewess (Esther) and was prepared to take action to destroy Haman and his evil band for their anti-Semitism expressed against Mordechai, the fact was that anti-Semitism was clearly a common thing at that time.  In more recent times the Nazis declared Iranians immune to the Nuremburg Laws as they were considered to be pure Aryans.  In spite of this, the Shah and the Iranian government did not support the anti-Semitism of the Nazis.  With the rise to power of the Islamic extremists in Iran in 1979, we saw the rise to power of extreme anti-Semitism at a regime level.  Ironically, this anti-Semitism was not directed at Jews living in Iran as much as it was directed at Israel.  When Ayatollah Khomeini returned from exile in Paris to take up the leadership role immediately after the revolution, he declared, "We recognize our Jews as separate from those godless, bloodsucking Zionists" and he issued a fatwa decreeing that the Jews in Iran were to be protected.  This did not stop Iranian Jews from leaving Iran in large numbers.  The population of Iranian Jewry shrunk from around100,000 at the time of the revolution to around 50,000 in the mid-1980s, to around 25,000 in the mid-1990s.  Less than 10,000 Jews are left in Iran today.  Because of the "protection" afforded to Jews living in Iran, there are those who believe that the hatred that we see coming from Iran is not anti-Semitism, but anti-Zionism.  The problem is that the basis for this anti-Zionism is still unexplained.

In spite of the Iranians not being Arabs, they have enjoyed some ideals in common with the Arabs since the revolution in Iran.  The premise for the Arab-Israeli conflict is pure anti-Semitism.  The Arab world could not accept the notion of Jews living in the Middle East on their doorstep, and resolved to do all to destroy them and their state.  The holy city of Jerusalem has become embroiled in this war as a tool, rather than an end.  It is noticeable that no attempt was made to claim Jerusalem (and its Muslim holy sites) by the Arabs in the period prior to the establishment of Israel.  When the Jews took control of Jerusalem, and even in spite of granting control of the Muslim holy sites to the Waqf Council under the chairmanship of the King of Jordan, the Arab world and the Muslim world rose up to object.  Was their objection in favour of the Muslim holy sites, or was the objection against the presence of the Jews?  Everybody will reach their own conclusion.  What is clear is that Iran has firmly jumped on this anti-Semitic bandwagon.

Iran's brand of Shia Islam has been a huge source of conflict with the Sunni Islam practised by most of the Arab world.  In spite of this fundamental source of disagreement, they have found a common cause to fight against the Jews in Israel, to fight against the existence of the State of Israel and to use the claim of the holy city of Jerusalem for Islam as a means to their end.  The city of Jerusalem seems to be almost the only cause and rallying point that unites all different streams of Muslims around the world.  And, by extension, the fight against Israel, the Jews and the current regime in Jerusalem is equally a common point of agreement between them all.  Although distinct cracks are starting to show in this quest as individual Arab countries come to the realisation that Israel is going nowhere, and understand that cooperation with Israel may be a better option for them than fighting the futile battle of trying to destroy her.

The Iranians are, however, unwavering and unashamed in their battle against Israel and her people.  They continue to sponsor Hamas and Hezbollah, amongst other terrorist groups, that act as proxies for Iran to destroy Israel.  Iran is also responsible for numerous terror attacks orchestrated against Israeli and Jewish targets outside of Israel.  It's quest to build a nuclear weapon that could potentially be used against Israel is clearly a cause that any Israeli government will consider to be of highest priority.   So Iran has clearly not changed its mind, nor given up its desire to destroy Israel in any way.

My problem is that I am still not entirely clear why Iran wants to destroy Israel.